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Saccharin - The Facts, Safety and Benefits

Updated: 06/28/2017

What is Saccharin?

      Saccharin, marketed primarily as Sweet 'N Low since the late 1950s, is an artificial sweetener that was discovered back in the late 1800's and became commercially available soon after. It has been widely used since that time as a safe, suitable alternative to real sugar but its use has declined in recent decades due to misleading research, the resulting bad press and the advent of newer artificial sweetener discoveries. It's still widely used, however, from a global consumption standpoint, being the base sweetener for everything from chewing gum to desserts by various manufacturers.
      Saccharin is a few hundred times sweeter than regular sugar and the sweetener itself has no measurable calories. Due to the small amount of saccharin needed on a per-serving basis and a slight aftertaste, it's often blended with other artificial sweeteners when found in prepackaged foods or beverages [1a]. When sold as a baking and tabletop sweetener for consumers, a glucose-based powdered flowing and bulking agent such as GMO or non-GMO maltodextrin or dextrose is often added to make the sweetener easier to use and to help mask the aftertaste of pure saccharin. Mixing pure saccharin with dextrose or maltodextrin adds an average of 2 - 4 calories and carbohydrates per serving, regardless if the product box says zero calories or carbs per serving. Consuming more than 4 - 5 packets at once of a typical tabletop saccharin-based sweetener in powdered form, such as Sweet 'N Low or N'Joy does add a very small but measurable amount of sugar to one's diet and is something to take into account. If a powdered saccharin sweetening product doesn't use dextrose or a glucose-equivalent flowing and bulking agent it will be clearly indicated as a "feature" of the product [1b]. For those that want to avoid any added sugars, no matter how insignificant the amount of sugar is per serving, you're in luck because saccharin is also available in a concentrated liquid sweetener form devoid of any sugars whatsoever.

Is Saccharin Safe?

      Recent research since the 1990s era clearly indicates that saccharin is considered completely safe and non-carcinogenic when ingested by humans. However, in the 1970s through 1980s saccharin was believed to be a harmful sweetener that increased the risk for bladder cancer, but this was due to flawed animal studies and critical misinterpretations of data [2]. Saccharin is currently listed as a safe sugar substitute by the USFDA, the European Union and the World Health Organization. Countries which have previously banned saccharin, such as Canada [3a], have now lifted the ban after a thorough review of the research which confirmed its safety [3b]. While it's classified a safe sugar free sweetener, saccharin is currently not recommended by the American Pregnancy Association if you're pregnant. This is due to the fact that saccharin crosses the placental barrier and the effects of saccharin on a fetus are unknown [4].

What Are The Benefits of Saccharin?

      Saccharin does have a couple of benefits if you need to reduce or eliminate sugar in your diet. For example, it's considered a calorie free sweetener in the food exchange system and doesn't raise blood sugar levels, which is useful for diabetics or anyone on a sugar-restricted diet [5]. Keep in mind what form of saccharin is being used though, as most powdered forms do use dextrose or maltodextrin in dietetically insignificant amounts (unless more than 4 or 5 packets are consumed at once), whereas the liquid saccharin products contain no added sugars unless indicated otherwise in the ingredients. So be it powdered tabletop saccharin or concentrated liquid saccharin, new dietary possibilities are opened up for those that don't care much for other sweeteners or like the idea that saccharin has been used safely for well over 100 years. One more other artificial sweeteners, saccharin itself is sugar free so there's no danger of tooth decay from using the pure form of it.

Article References

1a. "History of Saccharin". Calorie Control Council: 2016.

1b. Market observations, personal experience and communications with various commercial saccharin-based product manufacturers . 2010 - 2017.

2. "Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer". National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. 2009.

3a. "Saccharin". Health Canada. 2007.

3b. "[Canada] List of Permitted Sweeteners (Lists of Permitted Food Additives)". 2017. (

4. "Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy". 2015.

5. "Can I use artificial sweeteners if I have diabetes?". Maria Collazo-Clavell, M.D. Mayo Clinic. 2016.

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